Jacob, Leah


headshot Leah Jacob

Name: Leah Jacob
E-mail: ljacob1@nd.edu
Location of Study: Freiburg, Germany
Program of Study: Goethe Institute
Sponsors: Nanovic



A brief personal bio:

I am a sophomore Business major in the Mendoza College of Business, with a supplementary major in German. On campus, I am a tutor through the Academic Services for Student Athletes, as well as the director-in-training of a student-run production on diversity called Show Some Skin. I have been learning German since eighth grade, but I have never been to Germany, so I can’t wait to see what adventures my first trip will hold!

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

The next step to further my education in German is to study in an environment beyond the classroom. I am an intended finance major with definite plans to pursue a supplementary major in German. It is a widely known fact that Germany is an economic leader not only in the European Union, but also worldwide. The commercial ties between the United States and Germany are stronger than ever, and are predicted to grow in the foreseeable future. After graduation, I would like to be a part of that economic relationship. Through this program, I will develop a distinctive connection to Germany, and obtain international experience to help me find more opportunities before and after graduation. I hope to find employment that would allow me to draw on my knowledge of German language, culture, and business.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

Traveling to Germany to study the language provides the perfect authentic setting to completely immerse myself in a German experience that no classroom setting can provide. This trip will help me in my progress towards becoming fluent in the language, by encouraging me to think quickly and critically in German. Gaining language experience through this intensive course so early in my college career will count as credit toward my German degree. Not only will I be gaining new knowledge and vocabulary in the language itself, but I will be exposed a culture that I have never previously experienced.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. At the end of the summer, communication (speaking, reading, writing and simply thinking) in German will become second-nature and I will be able to produce sentences that include few or no grammar errors.
  2. At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak German with a proper accent and pronunciation.
  3. At the end of the summer, I will have surpassed my current level of proficiency in German by at least 2 semesters.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

Freiburg provides the perfect environment for the culture and language immersion that I am hoping for. Not only will I be in a four-week long intensive class for four hours a day, I also have opportunities available to me to build a connection with the local people as well. Outside of the classroom, the Goethe Institute offers an established “KULTUR- & FREIZEITPROGRAMM”, or cultural and recreational program. This program helps to provide access to cities around Freiburg, as well as cities in the neighboring countries of France and Switzerland. Trips to museums or the Freiburg Theater, and even cultural events within the institute are also included in this program. I am so excited that the Goethe Institute pushes their students to immerse themselves in German culture by opening the door to do things that one would not do otherwise.


Reflective Journal Entry 1:

Hallo! I have been in Freiburg for a couple days, getting settled in class, and trying to find my routine here. Today is June 4th, but a few days ago, on the train on my way to Freiburg, I drafted my thoughts on what I had seen of Germany so far! Enjoy!

Today, I begin my travel to Freiburg, where I will be spending the next few weeks. I actually arrived in Germany on Wednesday, May 28th. I was able to spend time in Berlin with the mother of my cousin-in-law, as well as with my cousin-in-law’s father in Potsdam. I was in Berlin from Wednesday until Friday. During my stay, I was able to see so much of Berlin! I visited Checkpoint Charlie, which was the border of the American sector. I saw where the Berlin Wall used to stand, which was so different than just learning/reading about it as a part of German history. I visited the Jewish Museum, as well as the German Historical Museum.

Potsdam was probably one of the most beautiful places I have visited so far. I was there from Friday until Sunday morning. On Friday, I saw the Gleinicker Bridge, which was the border at which various spy exchanges took place. We walked around the historical center of Potsdam, and I was able to see what they call the “Holländisches Viertel” as well as the “Russisches Viertel.” The next day, I went sightseeing with the couple I was staying with. I got a chance to see the church of Sacrow, the small town in which they live. It was beautiful, directly on the water. After that, we spent the day at the Sansouci Castle, where the Kings of Germany used to live. We saw the new palace, the castle itself, and wandered the garden/park for the entire day. In the evening, I accompanied them to a party, at which I met musician Max Raabe, as well as a film director. It was a great opportunity to practice my German, and it was fun getting to know so many people.
All in all, spending 4 days in Berlin and Potsdam with family was a wonderful “gentle introduction” to Germany. It was nice to have people speak only German to me, but also take me to noteworthy places and guide me through the norms of German culture. I already feel a difference in my German speaking, although it has only be a few days.
The train ride to Freiburg has been quite interesting. I had a ticket, but no seat reservation, so once the train became crowded, I had to leave my seat and go the rest of the way sitting on my suitcase. (Although in all honesty, I had more room than I had when I was sitting in a seat.) My stop is coming up, so I will post again when I am settled in Freiburg! Bis später!

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

Time is flying by here in Freiburg. I’m happy to say that I’ve adjusted to life here fairly well, and my course is also in full swing! The class is going well, and although it’s a little on the easy side, I’m still learning a lot. My conversational German feels a lot more comfortable now – most likely because I’ve been using it so much. I’ve fallen in love with life here – running to the bakery during class breaks, wandering the Altstadt, and even establishing a pretty scenic running route.

With Freiburg being located where it is (near to both France and Switzerland), I have been able to do a lot of traveling with the Goethe Institute since I’ve been here. My first weekend here I was lucky enough to visit Paris for a few days. I had never been there before, so it was incredible to see for the first time. A friend of mine, who actually lives in Paris, came with us. He introduced us to the best French pastries, showed us a beautiful view of the entire city, and accompanied us on our visit to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and many other sights.

The following weekend I took a trip to Bodensee, with a slight detour into Switzerland to see the Rheinfall. Both places were absolutely breathtaking. I was told that the Rheinfall is the largest plain waterfall in Europe. We stopped by Konstanz, an older German city, along with Meersburg and Übringen. After taking a ferry across the Bodensee from Meersburg to Übringen, we had time to explore the area. The water was crystal clear, which was such an amazing sight compared to what I’m used to back home.
On one of our days off (June in Germany holds many holidays, including Pfinsgten, as well as The Feast of Corpus Christi), my friends and I decided that we would take advantage of our access to the Schwarzwald and hike down one of the mountains. We took a cable car to the top, and then hiked 8.5 km back down to the bottom. It was beautiful every step of the way, and although we almost got a bit lost, it made it even more fun!

This past weekend I traveled to Basel, Switzerland. I think I would mostly describe it as “cute”, with architecture that seems like a mix between French and German. While we were there, I heard real Swis-German for the first time. It was a really cool dialect, but incredibly difficult to understand.
These opportunities to travel around Europe and hear German spoken in different dialects and by different people has by far been my favorite part of my experience so far!

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

Completely immersing myself in German language and culture for five whole weeks has done amazing things for my German speaking. (At least, I hope it has!) It has been so beneficial to hear the way certain words should really be pronounced, as well as being exposed to the colloquialisms and slang. I love training myself to react to situations as a native German speaker would. For example, I’ve begun to reflexively say “Entschuldigung” when bumping into someone, rather than “I’m sorry.” My friends and I have enjoyed many restaurants and cafes in Freiburg, and I have found that needing to communicate with a cashier quickly and efficiently is good practice to begin thinking in German. Although I feel that my knowledge of the German language is growing more and more each day, it has a long way to go. One of the most frustrating situations to be in here in Germany is when the locals identify me as an American, and then proceed to switch to English to communicate. In order to overcome this challenge, I feel pushed to really speak my best at all times, so that I am able to communicate with others in German. I have noticed that the longer I’ve been in Freiburg, the less people try to speak to me in English. I am hoping that this is because my language skills are improving through observing how they all speak and address people. In order to assess the current standing of my language skills, I took the B1 Certificate Exam. Despite how nervous I was, I passed with no problem. It was great to see that my time here in Germany has been paying off.

Reflective Journal Entry 4:

For my last weekend in Deutschland, my friends and I decided to take a trip to Munich. I had heard so much about how it is a “must-see” city, so in a moment of complete spontaneity, we booked our bus tickets and hotel room. The bus ride was 5 hours long, but it was quite bearable because the landscape was gorgeous. There must not have been a direct road from Freiburg to Munich, because we neared the Swiss border for a part of the journey, just in time to catch a glimpse of the Alps. Either way, we arrived in Munich around noon, because we had taken the early 7 am bus .The city was incredible. It almost seemed to be a mix between old, historic architecture and a modern day city. One of the first things I started to notice after speaking with various cashiers and hearing German on the streets was the Bavarian accent. Prior to visiting Munich, I had heard things about the Bavarian accent ranging from “It’s so cute!” to “Even I can’t understand it!” Both these things were true – communicating with the locals in Munich was very different, because their dialect was very very different from what I was accustomed to. That being said, I feel like I got used to it fairly quickly. My friend and I decided to visit the English Garden – which was gorgeous. I would probably describe it like Central Park on steroids. Afterwards, we visited Marienplatz and saw the New Town Hall. After wandering the city all day, we ended our night by spending some time at the Hofbräuhaus. The German culture showed through the fun and loud atmosphere, and the numerous Germans we met complimented our German profusely. The next day we visited the Deutsches Museum, which was huge and full of things to learn about past and modern science. I could have spent an entire day wandering the music, but unfortunately we were headed back to Freiburg that evening. Being so full of culture, Munich is definitely one of my favorite German cities that I have seen thus far.

Reflective Journal Entry 5:

Reflective Journal Entry 6:


Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future: